Official Arrested While Tithing Part of Bribe Money, Authorities Say

A housing utilities official was arrested right in front of worshippers at the Saratov church that he had designated as a drop-off for a bribe, part of which he planned to tithe to the chapel, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported Tuesday.

The official, Sergei Latanov, had initially demanded a 200,000 ruble ($6,900) bribe from Saratov businessman Alexei Sirotin in order to sign off on some construction work, the report said. The two men eventually agreed on 100,000 rubles, which Latanov — who denies any wrongdoing — told Sirotin to bring to the church at the end of Sunday’s liturgy, KP said.

Latonov had planned to give part of the money to the church, the report said.

Unfortunately for the official, Sirotin went to the authorities and showed up at church with a police brigade. Latanov took the money from the businessman and went inside to tithe, investigators told KP. There police arrested him right in front of the Sunday worshipers.

“When asked directly what the money was for, he calmly answered that it was payment for a heater that he allegedly promised the businessman,” regional investigator Denis Kunev told the newspaper.

Latanov has been charged with accepting a bribe and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

A Saratov court was to rule Tuesday on whether to keep Latanov in custody.

The Saratov Eparchy was a bit miffed that the cops chose to nab the official — reportedly quite aggressively, arm-twisting and all — right in church.

“This unprecedented incident reflects on the moral condition of our society as a whole, as well as its individual structures,” the eparchy said in a statement, KP reported. “Violence has no place in a chapel.”